Ideal and Jimson, both articulate and fiery, are doomed because their ingrained fears and defenses prevent them from trusting each other. Language, instead of working as a communicative bond between them, becomes so exaggerated and overblown that it creates a divisive wall. They rail against each other in florid, convoluted prose, often becoming so involved in their tirades that they seem to disappear into a forest of words. Polite gives almost no description of either Ideal’s or Jimson’s physical characteristics. The work of characterization is done through dialogue. What starts as realistic conversation between the two invariably picks up speed and becomes more and more grandiose. The monumental quality of their words elevates both characters above the realm of everyday reality and transforms them into larger-than-life figureheads of “black man” and “black woman.”
Polite’s use of dialogue establishes an ironic inconsistency between what the characters say and what they do: Both are trying to escape from the stereotyped roles their defensiveness forces them to project onto each other, but their language works against their demands for individuality and reestablishes them as stereotypes. The more the two argue about their individuality, the more their hyperbolic language suggests that they are indeed representations of stereotypes.
Even the characters’ names imply that they are larger-than-life, mythical figures. Ideal’s name...
(The entire section is 585 words.)